Preventing Blindness: A Top Priority at the Garo Meghrigian EyeInsti


June 14, 2004

American University of Armenia Corporation
300 Lakeside Drive, 4th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
Telephone: (510) 987-9452
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Contact: Gohar Momjian
E-mail: [email protected]

Preventing Blindness: A Top Priority at the Garo Meghrigian Eye Institute

Preventing blindness in Armenia – this is the bold and ambitious mission of
the Garo Meghrigian Eye Institute for Preventive Ophthalmology (GMEIPO).
The institute is located in Yerevan at the AUA Business and Conference
Center, and was established in 1999 within the AUA Center for Health
Services Research and Development of the College of Health Sciences.

“In our experience, screening over 6,000 children in Armenia’s summer camps
and other vulnerable populations in the regions, we have found that a large
majority of eye diseases and problems could be avoided with proper
education, affordable access to regular eye examinations, and treatment,”
said Naira Khachatryan, ophthalmologist, AUA graduate, and GMEIPO Program
Manager, who is also completing her Doctorate in Public Health at the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Preventable blindness is such a
tragedy, and playing a small part in preventing a single case or in
restoring proper vision is immensely gratifying.”

Mr. and Mrs. Garo and Gloria Meghrigian generously contributed $500,000 to
establish the Eye Institute in memory of their daughter, Christine Hripsime
Meghrigian (Dec. 10, 1953-Feb 26, 1991). Mr. Meghrigian was experiencing a
gradual loss of his eyesight, and he felt that adults as well as children
may be facing similar situations in Armenia. It was his vision to help other
Armenians not suffer the same fate by providing ongoing screenings in
Armenia; educating eye care providers and the general public on scientific
advances in detecting, preventing, and treating eye diseases; and more
importantly, translating these advances into nationwide clinical practices.
Mr. Meghrigian has passed away, but his wife Gloria and other family members
have a keen interest in the ongoing work of the Institute to prevent

Continuing AUA’s track record of building relationships and partnerships
with international and local agencies, most recently, the GMEIPO in
partnership with Armenia’s Ministry of Health and the Ararat Lions Club, was
awarded the Lions Club International Foundation SightFirst grant to improve
eye care in Gegharkunik Marz. “This collaborative project is comprehensive
and system-oriented. It establishes a regional ophthalmic unit in Sevan to
provide eye care on the district level, strengthening local infrastructure,
and providing services in the Marz currently only available in Yerevan,”
said Michael Thompson, Director of AUA’s Center for Health Services Research
and Development. “GMEIPO’s plan is to develop a mode of organizing,
financing, and delivering regional ophthalmic services for Armenia that
could be replicated as a national model of quality and affordable medical
services. Unlike other humanitarian efforts that simply provide care,
GMEIPO focuses on developing infrastructure, local expertise, and
sustainable systems.”

GMEIPO will be taking the lead to build a regional ophthalmic unit according
to Armenia’s Ministry of Health standards and equipped per the World Health
Organization standard list. Human resources will be developed, and training
will consist of international experiences, local academic training, and
local practical training covering both treatment and management skills.
Together, GMEIPO and the Ministry of Health will establish village
examination centers, and will complete mass screenings of approximately
20,000 people who are over the age of 50 in the Gegharkunik Marz. All
prevalent cases of bilateral blinding cataract, estimated at 1,000-1,500, in
the Marz, will be identified and treated during a one and a half year

“AUA is proud of the Garo Meghrigian Eye Institute and its outstanding
achievements. All of the AUA academic programs operate research and
development centers rooted in their academic fields that strive to impact
the community, to help improve the lives of individuals, and also to serve
as examples and catalysts for systemic change,” said AUA President,
Haroutune Armenian.


The American University of Armenia is registered as a non-profit educational
organization in both Armenia and the United States and is affiliated with
the Regents of the University of California. Receiving major support from
the AGBU, AUA offers instruction leading to the Masters Degree in eight
graduate programs. For more information about AUA, visit

Pictures: GMEIPO actively participated in the Boarding School Visual
Impairment Project – 2002, supported by UNICEF/Armenia and the Jinishian
Memorial Fund.